Days off shouldn't mean endless hours on the couch.
March 28, 2017 by Alex Rummelhart in Opinion with 2 comments
This article is presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at Spin Ultimate!
A good workout regime has planned off days.
Typically, a training plan for your average competitive ultimate player has two or three demanding workouts a week where the body is pushed to its limits or a specific muscle group is targeted. The other days of the week usually focus on “off” muscle groups or on recovery. This approach of alternating hard and easy workouts is a good one; it is completely understandable to want to rest the body after an especially difficult weight-session, workout, or practice. But taking that next day to simply sit on the couch for hours won’t help; it is no fun still being sore or tired several days after the peak performance or training.
Active Recovery is the research-proven idea that the body and its muscles need movement, stretching, and even a small degree of effort to reduce lactate levels, alleviate soreness, and encourage full recuperation of energy. Days off are important, and sometimes taking a step away from training can be rejuvenating. However, if you have the time and desire, active recovery workouts can make a big difference in how you feel and perform on the field.
Here are five Active Recovery Workouts to do on your ultimate rest day. Each of them lasts less than 30 minutes and will also work a skill or fitness feature that will help you on the ultimate field. Do these before a nice long throwing session and you’ve got a great off day to be proud of.
1. Footwork Drills
Any kind of footwork drill can be an incredible boon to your muscle-memory training, helping your defense, increasing the speed of your first step in cutting, or giving you the quickness to be successful maneuvering in small spaces.
Using an agility ladder can be a great way to add a complex component to your training game. They’re excellent when warming up for any kind of ultimate-related activity, but an active rest day can be entirely devoted to going deep into increasing your footspeed and agility. Vary up the drills by adding hops, skips, quicker feet, or focused plant and “stick” steps to your preparation. Here are 13 great agility ladder drills that, when done consistently, can help you see big dividends on your cutting control and quickness on the ultimate field.
Cone cutting can be a great replacement or supplement to an agility ladder. Set up a serpentine of cones at diagonals about five to ten yards apart; run through them in a variety of ways to both warm-up and work on your cutting speed. You can run the cones backwards, do shuffles, focus on planting on different feet, or just work on planting and bursting out in general.
Other footwork drills can be done by hopping on one leg over cones or in ladders, running shuttles (focusing on planting and turns instead of cardio), or doing plyometrics.
Moving and stretching your muscles is one of the biggest benefits of active recovery. Instead of sitting around building up more and more lactic acid and more and more muscle soreness, try easing the tension and loosen up, not only making your body feel better, but also preventing injury by increasing flexibility.
Many athletes have problems stretching, but ultimate players seem to especially struggle in this area, sometimes spending hours pushing their bodies to explosive extremes and then completely forgoing any post-game cool down — or worse, doing it wrong.
Yoga is a time-tested way to mix in dynamic and static stretching. It may be tough and painful, especially if you aren’t very flexible, but it’ll be better for your wellness overall and a complete yoga routine, moving slowly through a variety of cycles, will make sure you don’t do any further harm to your muscles (as some people do with sharp static stretching).
Yoga may not seem like much a workout, but it can certainly make you sweat, especially depending on what type of yoga you’re focusing on. If you’re looking for an extra bang for your buck, try to choose a routine that focuses on your core or an area of weakness in your body, or go for a hybrid-fitness yoga class that might incorporate light weights or cardio.
For those who don’t have the time or money for yoga at a studio, there are tons of free videos online, many with specialized routines based on muscle groups. Just be careful when doing yoga by yourself that you don’t push anything to the point where you’ll hurt yourself.
Yoga also has an added benefit of great psychological upswing, with stress relief and relaxation thrown in.
3. Core Workouts
Your core is an extremely important part of your body that also doesn’t always get a lot of its own attention. Many times, ultimate players work on our abdominal, oblique, or lower back muscles as a supplement to other workouts; rarely do we give this important stabilizer set its own day of focus.
Spend some time stretching to loosen up before going into any kind of core workout. Also, make sure you have a goal in mind. Do you want to do this mostly to relieve muscle pain and get ready for your next big body push, or are you also trying to build strength in these areas? There are dozens of workouts in different target areas, but the Core Warrior is a great one you can do right in your living room.
Sometimes simply spending ten minutes stretching and then working your lower back can be really beneficial. Often, when a player lays out or dives for a disc, they don’t land perfectly or roll upon impact. This can create some whiplash for our spines and necks and its important to stretch these muscles and do some slight exercise with them, like superman’s, back bridges, or stabilizing planks.
4. Jog And Stretch
Jogging has gotten a bad rap in the last few years, and undoubtedly long-distance running is not the best way to train for ultimate. However, a nice run can be a really good active recovery routine, if accompanied by dynamic stretching (whether before, after, or even within the run). Work on keeping your heart rate elevated and improving some cardio and muscle endurance, but more specifically on loosening up those muscles in the first place.
Vary it up by doing a fartlek (Swedish for “speed play”) where you alternate your run’s speed (whether by time or distance). In a fartlek, you can start off with a slow jog, accelerate into an up-tempo pace, and then even do a few gradual build-ups to sprint off some of your muscle tightness.
Change up the traditional fartlek model by adding in repetitions of your dynamic warm-up exercises like high-knees, butt-kicks, shuffles, or more. You can jog, do a dynamic exercise, jog, up-tempo, sprint, and so on for 20-30 minutes. You might look a little funny out in public, but putting your body through so many different movements is great for keeping it fresh.
Jogging for less than ten minutes isn’t going to do very much for your active recovery, so usually aim for at least fifteen. Similarly, running without stretching before or after can make your body feel worse. Also be sure your body can handle the impact of running — having good shoes and running on grass or soft gravel is important.
5. Cross Train
Cross-fit has been so popular the last few years that people have forgotten the benefits of simply cross-training; switching away from ultimate or purely ultimate training has both positive psychological and physiological benefits.
Swimming and biking are some of the best cross-training exercises because they are low impact and often push our muscles in ways that they aren’t used to, giving a good cardio workout along the way.
Trying other sports like basketball, volleyball, or soccer can be both fun and good for your muscles, but are also more likely to result in acute and traumatic injuries, so keep the risk and the intensity level in mind when you’re going out to play.
Even something as boring as going out for a hike or long walk is refreshing for the body and the brain.
Even at the height of your training, it’s fine to take some off days, but don’t forget to loosen up the muscles with some stretching and light exercise. Be moving around and even pushing some of your lesser-focused body areas or skills (like your core, flexibility, or your footwork) to maximize your time during training season and increase your likelihood of active recovery.
It never hurts to get in some extra throwing either.